International Rescue Committee (IRC)

On location with Half the Sky

The International Rescue Committee's Melissa Winkler is in Sierra Leone, on location with the film crew of Half the Sky, a documentary series to air in 2012 on abuses and inequities faced by women and girls around the world and inspiring women who are combating them and finding solutions. Half the Sky is partnering with the IRC on a film segment about sexual violence. 

Children in the capital Freetown returned to class this week and here at the Aberdeen Primary School, a special after-school program is underway.  About 20 girls are gathered, proudly sporting their bright blue freshly pressed school uniforms.  
“Who are you,” asks Amie Kandeh, smiling broadly in anticipation of the answer.  “Girls with a future,” they shout in response, egged on by Dr. Bisi Cole.
Amie oversees International Rescue Committee programs in Sierra Leone to aid, protect and empower women and girls.  Bisi is a medical doctor, who provides emergency care for survivors of sexual violence at the IRC’s Rainbo Centers and also trains IRC midwives who work at the facilities.
Amie and Bisi are longtime colleagues and friends, and also lead the IRC-supported Girls with a Future project, which helps vulnerable girls build confidence and aims to reduce their chances of being sexually exploited.  
I watch the animated pair engage the girls in a conversation about plans for the coming school year – as film maker Mira Chang shoots the lively scene.
Amie and Bisi are being featured in an upcoming documentary series based on the best-selling book, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women, written by acclaimed American journalists Nick Kristof and Sheryl Wu Dunn.  Like the book, the documentary series will examine the issues of sex trafficking, forced prostitution, gender-based violence and maternal mortality -- and tell the stories of courageous and determined women like Amie and Bisi, who are confronting these problems and finding meaningful solutions through health care, education, economic empowerment and advocacy.
Half the Sky’s Mira Chang interviews Rainbo Center manager Millicent Juana on the help she provides to women and girls.
Half the Sky’s Mira Chang interviews Rainbo Center manager Millicent Juana on the help she provides to women and girls.
(Photo: Melissa Winkler/IRC)
The Half the Sky film crew is spending two weeks with our team in Sierra Leone, learning about the sexual violence that was quietly accepted before the country’s civil war, the brutal violence against women and girls that soared during the long conflict (1991 – 2002) and the ongoing violence that women continue to face, even though the war ended nearly 10 years ago.
Tomorrow, Nick Kristof will be joining the crew and in the coming days, we’ll be taking them to IRC centers in Freetown and Kenema  that provide medical care, counseling and other vital services for survivors -- and giving them a first-hand look at other innovative IRC programs that empower women, educate communities and seek to change attitudes and behaviors.
1 comment


To: Amie Kandeh in Sierra

To: Amie Kandeh in Sierra Leone I wanted to thank Amie for all her efforts, we as women all over the world feel very compassionate about women sex trafficking and rape. I saw the documentary and my heart went out to whats going on. Regardless which ethnicity we are from underneath we are the same. Thank you Amie and her team thats out there. We here appreciate all your dedication and hard work towards these young girls. Dana